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Todd McFarlane: The Figures & Speech Interview

Todd McFarlane: The Figures & Speech Interview

If it weren’t for Todd McFarlane, I might not still be collecting toys.

Like many children growing into adulthood before me, I started realizing in college that I wasn’t playing with my figures as much as I thought I would. It also became clear that I was accepting mediocre product – like Jakks Pacific’s floppy-jointed wrestling figures – just to own characters I was attached to. But as luck would have it, right as I got into Spawn comics, their creator decided he was going to do better than the other toy companies out there and created McFarlane Toys, kicking it off with Spawn and his supporting cast sporting sculpts and paint jobs that made them feel like works of art. He also broke a long-standing taboo against toys based on R-rated properties – prior toy versions of Alien and Freddy Krueger had been withdrawn from shelves, but since Todd got his hands on them, they’ve rarely left. Other companies upped the ante to match, and things got good.

The economy hit the collectible toy market hard, and now he’s known more for Halo (there’s still time to enter our McFarlane Toys Halo giveaway here) and sports toys than for gruesome monsters and half-naked women. But will he ever return to his roots? That’s one of many topics covered in our conversation, the first of what I hope will be many interviews with the best and brightest in the toy business.

Luke Y. Thompson: Since I’ve moved in with my fiancée, I’m still unpacking boxes and finding old McFarlane figures that I forgot even existed. Things like the Clown who’s beating the guy to death with his severed arms, and it’s like “Wow! I had forgotten that I even had that”, but it’s cool.

Todd McFarlane: Yeah, every now and then I’ll see an image some place and I’ll go “Oh! That’s right, we made that toy!” We still have a whole bunch of them stuck to the wall to be a reminder. We’ve got all of our sports figures up on the wall. But you know, we have to keep track of who we’ve made and who we haven’t. The Spawn stuff—we’re doing those right now. But some of those turned out pretty cool!

LYT: They did.

TMF: The thing is, when you do like 100 toys, you get 20 that turned out way better than you thought, and 20 that turned out “eh,” you know, a little worse than you thought, and then a bunch in between.

LYT: Right.

TMF: That makes it a very inexact science.

LYT: So with the sports picks, do you ever forget that you’ve made someone, like do you decide someone has to be on the slate but then you find out you’ve done them already?

TMF: You know what? Sadly, no. I’m actually kind of a geek when it comes to sports stats and things like that, really, since I was a kid. So I put all of that stuff into that box, you know, with the Partridge Family theme song – stuff like that useless information that you’re storing. But I’m pretty good with going “No, no, no, we did that guy in that pose, we’ve got to do him here.” Or even “He got traded, so we can do him again because now he’s got the new uniform.”

LYT: The Micro Ops for Halo is a new scale for you, right? You’ve never done anything that small before, have you?

TMF: No. The only thing that would even remotely come close to that is that we did a line of dragons – a couple of lines – and we actually started putting little people in it to try to give it the sense of scale, of how big the dragons were. But on an ongoing basis, no. And you know, this came about that we knew we were going to – we ran into this with some other licenses over the years, so we said “Let’s just create a generic sort of brand like ‘Micro Ops’ that we can mess with scale.” Because otherwise you’re never going to get there, right? I mean, at some point, you know you have to figure out scale if you want to do your Millennium Falcon.  So with Star Wars you go… ”Ahhh, OK.” We can do this, it can be a holder, it can be a steel die cast or whatever, but you have to mess with it. Some companies in the past that sort of dealt with the scale issues even at that still have to mess with the scale because they’ll put a car size with a battleship just to get it into that sort of Hot Wheels size, if you will.

LYT: Transformers, obviously.

TMF: We were having trouble trying to get some of the bigger vehicles and aircrafts and stuff like that, spaceships and stuff. We’re never going to do them, unless — and this just became part of that conversation.

LYT: So the giant drop ship we saw at Toy Fair a couple of years ago scaled for the 4” figures, are we thinking that’s never going to come out in that scale, is that unfeasible?

TMF: Yeah, we sold some of them to our retailers, and they said “Love it! Where the hell am I putting that thing?” And so A: I can only put that out there during Christmas because it was a big boxed item. And B: There’s going to be a big price that goes with it. So again, you go “Ugh.” How do you get all the cool stuff, especially with Halo 4 coming out… I remember when I first went into an earlier meeting, and they showed me some of the new vehicles they were going to bring in, the new spaceships that they had out there. I would go “Wow! This is cool!” I’m like a car guy, so I actually like the look of the outside. I don’t need to have a little set of specks of guys that are inside it — I’ll take the USS Enterprise. I built that model when I was a kid plenty of times.  I don’t need the people, I don’t need Captain Kirk; I want the vehicle itself.

LYT: Would you ever consider doing something like Mattel is doing with Castle Grayskull right now where this thing is going to be $200 and we won’t make it unless we get a certain number of pre-orders and then we’ll just sell it online?

TMF: The answer is “Absolutely.”  It’s a little bit what we do with the statue that we’re selling right now. We’ve actually got a Halo one coming out. And again, you sort of make it – you know it’s going to be priced somewhere between $100 and $200 dollars and you make a limited amount, but you know you’re going to cost it out, it’s going to work out. The bigger problem with doing that mindset with toys is that with statues there’s a different manufacturing process that isn’t nearly as expensive as when you do a traditional toy where you have to cut steel – you know the steel molds can get pretty expensive – and as you might imagine, the bigger the piece, then the crazier that price gets. I know that we’ve talked about it, going “What if we could sell X amount of them and get pre-orders?” Because what they’re doing, they’re just basically doing the math backwards, right?

LYT: Yeah

TMF: If we get X number of people that will give us X number of dollars, that pays the bills, and we can make it, and then they’ll go make it.

LYT: One thing I’ve noticed you’ve done on the new Halo line is you’ve brought back the concept of the deluxe boxed set which always used to be like a key touchstone in every one of your lines. Was that a tough sell to bring back, because I think it’s really cool that you have those larger pieces in the figure series back again?

TMF: I think what was limiting us a little bit was some of the components and what was actually in some of the games that people were reacting to, especially in Halo 3. Now as you go forward to Halo 4, part of the new game and some of the new design concepts, some of the sort of prop pieces, if you will, now have some pertinent relevance to the game. Before it was a lot of, you had your Spartans and your enemies, and the next big kick-up a lot of times was a vehicle. It wasn’t a prop, if you will. Again, when I collected stuff when I was younger, I always liked things that I could put the characters in, besides the vehicle, because again I had plenty of that. So things that had swinging doors or chambers or even chairs – whatever it was, anything – I didn’t care. Thrones – I didn’t care what it was. Just as long as I could sort of put them in there and go “That’s kind of cool!”

LYT: One of the things that I’ve been really sad to see go in the current age of action figures is bases for figures. Every company used to put their figures on bases, and certainly the Lost figures that you did had some incredible bases, but it seems like because of the cost no one is willing to do that. And I’d be willing to pay $3 or $4 more for the base.

TMF: Unfortunately, a lot of the dynamics that happened, say 2 or 3 years ago, when the price of manufacturing and the price of labor in China were both going up, so usually over the course of making any product, specifically toys, usually they’ll phone you and they’ll say “You know what? Labor costs are going up.” So you have to factor that in. And then later on they’ll phone you up and say “Materials are going up; certain materials.” And you go “Oh, OK.” And again, remember, we’re talking about plastic, which is a by-product of petroleum. So one thing I don’t think people understand is that when gas is $4 or $5 a gallon, it’s getting up there, that means toys are going to be more expensive because we’ve got to now buy the plastic which is a by-product of that. So all of it goes up. And when gas prices go down, then we get better pricing on it. The problem becomes, as you might imagine, when the price goes up, then all the big Fortune 500 guys make their adjustments and so do the retailers. And then even if there is a price decrease, nobody, it doesn’t seem like, passes it on to the consumer then, because they just now got the consumer used to that next threshold, if you will.

But one of the thresholds that nobody likes is the $10 item. Because now you’ve got double digits. There was a time when labor and materials were going up on everybody, that everybody was trying to keep the cost down, keep the cost down, keep the cost down! And keep it under $10, and the thing that had to give in a lot of it was the scale shift. I mean, you saw that shift from the quote/unquote 6 inch figures back to the 4 inch or the 3 ¾ inch scale, back to the Star Wars scale. All of a sudden Marvel went down and Batman went down and everything. And then they started even coming out with stuff like the Hulk, where they started giving you two versions of it: do you want the big version or the other one? And then Iron Man: do you want the big version or the little one? And then they started saying that that was combined now, the economy was not doing very well back then too, the parents were going “Uh, if you’re going to get a Hulk toy, get the cheap Hulk toy.” Right?

LYT: Yeah.

TMF: So what happened was as a byproduct of all that was that sales were going up on the cheaper one, the smaller scale. I think it was a false positive because of the economy. But then the retailers go “No, no, no! This new scale, we like this new scale, this is what everybody’s buying.” Then everybody sort of started shifting a little bit into that one. The big question for me now is what happens now that you’ve shrunk the toys across the spectrum of the toy aisle? And you get now to the point where costs are going to push you back to $10. You can’t keep shrinking it; something’s going to have to give. And you’re already starting to see it; you’re seeing a lot of toys that are now past the $10 mark, where before that was sort of this forbidden territory. I mean, even at stores like Walmart there are $10 toys and I go “Yeesh!” So now, since I still want to keep that, if I was to come back with the product like Lost, then all of a sudden they go “OK, that’s going to be $17, $18.” All of a sudden, that extra 80% to the average consumer sort of makes a difference. Then they go “I wonder if I’m going to sell that many at $18, and I know that it’s cool, but I don’t know if we’re going to get the sales, if we’re going to get the volume.” And so, you’re always dealing with their wants and needs, and what they think their consumers are purchasing at any given time.

LYT: Is there also an issue with costs of tooling going up, because it really seems that for a lot of lines the standard is to have a basic buck that can be used in 3 or 4 variants and then you get one or two uniquely tooled figures a series; is there also economics at work there?

TMF: There is.  And again, depending on what your line is, you can and can’t take advantage of that in an appropriate fashion. I mean, I don’t have the spreadsheets of the big guys, but I just go “Wow!”  If I was selling even a fraction of their volume, what are you talking about?  I’d be able to make every guy light up; be unique and light up. They have their profit margins they need to meet with whatever business model they have and overhead. So I’m always surprised at how much they fall into that trap, where a small company like mine, we get squeezed. Again, I could make a stronger case as to why we need to do it, to weather the storm, but the big guys, I never understood why every one of those shortstops had to be in the same pose.

LYT: Do you think it’s a storm that can be weathered, or are we close to getting to a point where action figures will simply cost more than the average consumer wants to pay?

TMF: No, because it’s all going to be relevant. If you look back probably a year and a half ago, all the chocolate bars you bought were 79¢. The same chocolate bar today, now everybody is willing to pay $1.19 for it. So somehow, they got us from 79¢ to $1.19, and it’s the same chocolate bar, and nobody’s really bellyaching about it. The one thing that’s good about toys is that, for the most part, is that they’re cheap goods, and they’re consumed by children, (and the toys) are, for the most part, again, bought by their parents. And so when the economy gets tough, and historically this has been proven out, toys don’t suffer at the same rate as a lot of other businesses. Cars don’t sell as much, plasma TVs might not sell as much, new refrigerators might not sell.  You’re probably not going to go out and buy the top of the line air conditioner if yours poops out or something. And you might cut down on that trip to Disneyland, you might go “God, I can’t afford it.” So you go, “We’re not going to begrudge our kid an $8 toy.” The question then becomes how many toys then were people buying on a casual basis that now they’re tightening up on their “casual buying.” That would have impact. If you look at the data, when the economy goes down 5%, then usually toy sales go down 1% or 2%. They don’t go down at the same rate.

LYT: I know back in the ’90s, I was buying everything you put out, even if it was something like Metal Gear Solid, where I didn’t play the game, just because the figures were cool, but nowadays that wouldn’t be something I would buy because I’m trying to batten down the hatches a bit.

TMF: Right, right! So you’re going to make selective buys. Because of that, then it’s reflected on a company like mine, because we used to put out a lot of different lines, and had a lot of different licenses, and because that volume now isn’t there and people are making those decisions, now we can’t put out 15 lines and 15 licenses, maybe we just need to concentrate on 6, ones that we know are going to be good for 365-day programs that we can put out that we know are going to float the boat, and you have to unfortunately cut the stuff at the bottom of the pecking order.

LYT: Are you going to do any toys based on the Halo live-action series on Machinima?

TMF: Yep! We’ll get a couple of those out.

LYT: Let’s talk about Walking Dead, the TV series 2. When can we expect to see those?

TMF: Series 2 is coming out, I think, in October.  Some of the stores are getting them in October. I think one of the big retailers isn’t going to get it ’till January, but it will still be that same series. Then we’ll have a statue that will be coming out, then we’ll have some comic book product that will be following behind it, and then we’re starting work on series 3 here [Note: shortly after this interview was conducted, images of series 3 surfaced online – SPOILER warning applies!], so we’ll continue that. You know, the retailers appear to be sort of excited about that product when the show is out, and haven’t quite bought into a 365-day program with it. It’s sort of the routine that allows you to get in mind all the different sorts of characters and all the cool stuff that you want to do in it. We’ll probably for another year have to sort of deal with them opening their shelves to us on that product for about 6 months, which is not a coincidence that it matches up to when the show is on TV. And then they say “Now it’s off the air, so we’ll close it back down and then we’ll open it back up when they come back on again.”

LYT: Is there consideration to maybe doing a deluxe boxed set based on The Walking Dead, maybe down the line?

TMF: Yeah, oh yeah! There are a couple; I’d like to do things – again, you’ve got to mess with scale – I’d like to do the van, and then you could probably do 1 inch or a little bit bigger characters around the van. I think that would be kind of a cool one.  And then do Daryl; Norman [Reedus], the actor – I just saw him again last week. He always asks the same thing: “Todd, when am I coming with my motorcycle?” That would be a cool boxed one. He’s just sitting there, Easy Rider bad ass, with the big chopper handle bars, looking like a dude. I think that’d be a cool one. And then as the show progresses, I’m sure there’ll be props in there that make sense for us to put into the boxed sets, like we’re doing with the Halo ones right now.

LYT: I saw online when the first series came out, there was a lot of criticism from fans that the walking figure, they couldn’t get the walking mechanism to work, and on some of them they thought the articulation was a little weird. Have you taken that feedback to heart? Is that something that you feel is legitimate, or was it unfair?

TMF: No, no, no… I think it was fair. Again, I was fighting with my engineers to get it to do what I wanted it to do. So I kept saying I wanted to add a fun feature to every zombie, and again they’re walkers, Walking Dead, so we tried the walking, but probably we could have experimented with it a little bit longer until we got it down and fine-tuned it until it was cool and perfect. Instead of like, “Eh.” It was weird – I would get two of them, and one of them would work perfect, but the other one would be inconsistent. I’d go “What?” – this is the same manufacturer, the same design, the same gears, so I didn’t get it. I think those criticisms came from the people who got the inconsistent ones, and they aggravated me too, so the answer is, you look at that and you go “Look, unless we’ve got it down and nailed, a motion like that, then it’s better to just have goofy stuff where you get exploding heads and pull people apart and do goo stuff and push a button and something pops out of their stomach.”  There are other functions that I can guarantee a 99% accuracy on, and that walking one just sort of gave us fits and starts, unfortunately.

LYT: In terms of the articulation, some people also felt that there were a lot of joints but they were only designed to get the figure to stand in one pose. Are you looking at making some of those subsequent figures be able to hold a bunch of different poses, like the Halo guys?

TMF: The answer is “yes” and “no.” I always thought that could be sort of a strange comment from people. Here’s the problem: If you want them to be in another pose – I don’t care if it’s a monster or a female, I don’t care what it is, it doesn’t matter. If you want them to be in another pose than what I call the “A” pose, you can’t then have a figure that is 6-8-10-12 moving parts, you now have to go from 8 or 10 to 30-ish. Unless you’re just going, “We’ll just care about the waist down.” Because the problem is that you have to then have the joint at the groin,  the joint at the knee and now a the joint at the thigh. As you spread your leg, you have to be able to get there. And then the one that people don’t ever pay attention to is that then you have to have articulation in the toes. And then you actually have to have the ankles and the toes, both be able to angle and articulate, not only turn, but then be able to change the angle on it, because strike any pose, and the further you get your foot out, the more you have to kink your ankle. And so it’s way easier said than done.

LYT: Yeah.

TMF: And then what happens, the downside of it from my perspective is then you have to put so many points of articulation that the toy starts to look goofy. Now, with Spartans, you can get away with that a lot more because you’ve got the armor and you can hide all these goofy cuts. Iron Man is the perfect guy, but if you do that same articulation from Iron Man to Captain America or Spider-Man, you completely notice it on those guys. And so given that we’ve got in Walking Dead a lot of people in shirts and pants, even the dead guys, it’s more difficult aesthetically to do all that articulation and still make the toy kind of look cool. So you have to, at times unfortunately, pick your poison, and go, do you want each one of these to have sort of an A pose and they can do a little bit, and then have a fun factor to it, or do you want to be able to go no, I want to be able to pose them in any position I see fit. So those are unfortunately decisions that usually fall on my shoulders, and I have to live with it one way or the other.

LYT: What are the chances of maybe doing a Spawn line in the Halo/Walking Dead scale? You know, redoing characters like The Violator and Overtkill in a 4 inch, more poseable scale.

TMF: You know, we’re doing the statues right now; they’re doing really well for us. We’ll probably go back and reissue some of the “classics”. Like some of those ones you and I were talking about. It’s like “Oh, yeah! I remember that, 10 years ago that they made that.” Do some of that, and then if I can get the next movie off the ground, which is completely at my feet because I’m the guy writing the script, then I think that becomes sort of the moment where we can then start thinking about our national level, and we can do some cool fun stuff again with it, and get the retail space with it. Otherwise, if it’s just hitting the core people and getting it into a couple of stores then you run into that same thing that you and I again were talking about, which is that cost analysis of “How do you get there?”

LYT: If we’re talking about reissuing older classic stuff, I’d like to make my own personal plea for “Twisted Christmas” figures. I was never able to get a full set and they seem like they’d be a perennial seller. Is there any chance they could come back maybe in a boxed set, maybe in a repaint; some way to make it new and not devalue the old ones?

TMF: Yeah, no, we would never come back and make it exactly the same. I know we’ve had conversations exactly like what you’re saying, and I go, hold on a sec. Do we come out with, if we’re going to reissue – because there’s some cool sets that we did, and that was one of them. I think a lot of the “Twisted” stuff turned out kind of cool. Do you just put it out and then do you frustrate the person who only wants one because he missed one here or there, or do you just acknowledge that time has gone by, and that now you’re putting out these toys and they’re kind of new to the person looking at it, the vast majority at least, and [they] are going “Wow! Look at that!” Or, I’ve seen those on eBay but they’re $55 each, I don’t want to do that, and then put all 5 or 6 of them in one box. I mean, to me, and again just thinking like more of a sort of adult instead of a kid, and depending on the subject matter, the “Twisted Christmas” becomes one of those. You just go “No!” You put it out as a boxed set and you get all 6 for $50 or whatever it is. I think we’d get a decent response from it, right? Again, we’re not going to sell gazillions, but you go, “OK, all the R&D has already been done,” we change up some of the bases and/or some of the paint job, and acknowledge that it’s not exactly the same as it was before. Or maybe even add a little piece, a new piece here or there, and go “Here! One stop shopping, put a handle on it, you get the whole set in one stop. Boom! Done.”

LYT: I also think you’d sell more of those ones because I was never able to find a complete set, which was why I didn’t end up buying any because I wanted all of them. You could find the reindeer and the snowman but the other ones were impossible.

TMF: Yeah, Mrs. Claus, she went pretty quick.

LYT: Oh yeah.

TMF:  Santa did OK. You know, it’s unfortunate that the stuff like the dragons, and even Spawn, the “Twisted” stuff, the “Movie Maniacs” and things like that, all of that became collateral damage with the economy, because the vast majority of that product was being sold into stores like Virgin Records and Tower Records and Suncoast, and all these stores – Babbages – that no longer exist, and have gone bankrupt, not even on the planet anymore. So were before we used to be able to come up with crazy stuff like the “Twisted” series, like the “Tortured Souls,” that was literally based on nothing other than “How crazy can we get?” And we’d sell between 200,000 and 400,000 units, easy. And now if I was to do that exact same line and try and sell it not through the Internet, but just trying to sell it out, maybe I’d get a tenth of that; maybe I’d get 40,000, maybe. And that’s 40,000 with six figures, so 40,000 divided by 6. So that’s how many of those stores have vanished. I called them my “B” accounts. I sort of put my accounts into three buckets.  One was the mass retailers, and there’s only two or four of those. And then there were the “B” accounts, and those really for a long time were my life’s blood, were the “B” accounts. They carried all the cool stuff; they were the cool shops.  And then there were the sort of “mom and pop” shops; that was the other bucket. And the vast majority of what we did was in the “B” accounts,  and when that started going away it wasn’t that people didn’t like the toys anymore, they weren’t necessarily buying less (although that certainly became part of it); it was just that those stores literally just vanished and those accounts dried up, they just went away. So it’s not like they said “Todd, we don’t want your stuff anymore; it’s not selling.” They just shut their doors on everything.

LYT: Yeah.

TMF: So we then ended up at a point where I remember having sort of a big meeting with everybody and going “Guys, we’re at a bit of a fork in the road here, through no fault of our own. The world is what it is, you know, we’re part of it, so we either become a mom and pop shop and we do some cool arty stuff, and that’s a legitimate business. But I don’t need the overhead that I have then for it. Or, if we’re going to try to sustain some of the overhead, which basically means your jobs, we have to then do stuff that’s more mass-friendly.”  And we decided to try to make an attempt at the mass-friendly, which meant we had to put a bigger effort into things like Halo at mass, you know; Walking Dead, at mass; Sports, at mass. I mean, we had to hit that to be able to basically sustain the infrastructure because unlike some of the other “art houses” that don’t have as many people working for them, which is one of the reasons why they never got mass distribution, because you have to have a whole logistics and IT division just to match up with their computers, forget art! Just that piece of the puzzle, and all of those people come at a cost. So the big question isn’t only do we wish we could do more monsters and have more places to sell them? You betcha! In 10 seconds! If somebody was to say, if Walmart was to say “Todd, we’re going to give you two feet and you just come up with as wacky and cool stuff as you want, and go!” We’d be back, like that’s our sweet spot right there.

LYT: In terms of other licenses that you’ve done in the past but not so much now, have you given up on doing music personalities and movies, or is that something that’s on hiatus, or are you still looking at doing stuff like that in the future?

TMF: The music ones are a little more difficult, because (again) they were sold to the “B” accounts, and as you remember, they were one-offs, which is really the hardest product to sell. So now it’s very, very difficult to walk in and say “I have one item.”

LYT: Yeah.

TMF:  I need space for it. Their attitude is “It’s going to get lost, where do you want me to put it? It’s just a pimple!” And so their buying dynamic has shifted over the years. And so where they used to say “Yeah, cool! Elvis – we’ll do it. The Beatles – love ‘em!” And you could sort of get in there. But now they just go “What’s the program?” And then on the movie side, though there are some exciting new movies that are out there, the retailers are being very, very, very cautious. And so you don’t know how successful any movie is going to be before it comes out, but we had the license to The Prince of Persia, and though in hindsight the movie didn’t do good, nobody knew that going in, but what we did know was that Disney had spent over $200 million making this movie, with a big-name producer who obviously was tied to the Pirates, and it’s Disney!

LYT: And it’s based on the video game too.

TMF: And based on that combo, with Bruckheimer, couldn’t get us in. I’m pretty sure WalMart passed on it. They just went “Nah. If it’s not a Top 5 movie, we don’t want it.” That one was about six, seven. So all of a sudden you go “WOW!” So now you’ve got to have a Top 5, and you’re going to start counting them on your hands now. There’s going to be the Marvel movie, the other Marvel movie, the Batman movie, the Transformers movie. There’s going to be Harry Potter, Star Wars, whatever, it gets filled very quickly now. So they’re being very picky about what movie toys they buy, and if it’s going to be a Top 5, then the big boys of our times will just come in and drop the Brinks truck in cash with the people, and I can’t play that game. So what I need to do is find licenses that are ahead of the curve; that I think are going to make an impact a little bit later and that either, the big guys don’t know it, or – comma – it’s material and product that is maybe a little bit risqué for them, that’s not really sort of their forte, like The Walking Dead.

LYT: With Halo do you look at stuff that other companies like Mega Bloks are doing and sort of try to actively one-up their concept, or do you not even pay attention to them?

TMF:  No, because we do a lot of work with Mega Bloks, and they’re doing a great job, but even they’ll admit that they get a giant portion of people buying their product because it’s just a cool box with a lot of cool stuff inside it, and that the kid who buys it, or the mom who’s buying it, they’ve never even played the game before! So they go “Wow! Look at this! There’s some army men in it, and bad guys, and you get a hundred pieces, a thousand pieces, two vehicles.” I mean, it’s like the same reason why you pick a Lego thing, because it looks cool and you get a lot of value for your dollar. So they’re getting a lot of that. For the longest time, they were only able to put out stuff that was based on Halo Wars, PG stuff, and it wasn’t like that was the strongest Halo stuff that was out there. It was just that they were then able to take some of those vehicles that we talked about and build and actually put them into play, and the construction end of the toy business is working now, so Mega and Lego are finding that if you actually put logos on your brand, it can help drive stuff, but even with the logo sometimes it just sells because it’s cool stuff. It’s robots – it’s one of the Legos sets and Mega Bloks sets has like the coolest robot looking stuff. I understand Transformers, that’s a big one, but moms and dads aren’t necessarily fluent in everything that their kids are involved in.

LYT: Is there any hope still for the Tortured Souls or Twisted Land of Oz movies, or are those dead?

TMF:  Yeah, they’re dormant right now. But with the way that Hollywood sort of works is that you just need to re-create momentum, and the way you create momentum is you get the Spawn movie reboot put out, make it successful, it works, and then everybody comes knocking on the door going “What else you got?” And then you just dust off some of the stuff that I thought that they misfired on, and you go “Here. Here’s the stuff that we’ve got. Oh, and by the way, ALL of this is easy to do at a small fraction of the price.” A couple of them are sort of big, giant ideas, but for the most part, instead of coming up with these $100 million ideas, I come up with these $10 million ideas. I don’t mess around in the middle too much.

LYT: And how is the Spawn movie coming? I remember the proof of concept trailer at Comic-Con a few years back, and we’ve all been sort of waiting to see more.

TMF: I’ve got about a third of it done. The whole movie’s done; I’ve got the whole movie based on these little notes I’ve done over the years on these little recipe cards. That’s how I do it, I sort of write all the scenes and the actions and then I put them in order, and then I move the order and so I’ve got the whole movie on index cards. Between my busy life and drawing and writing other books and I’ve got a family and I do a lot of baseball coaching, so, I go “Ai-yi-yi!” I get distracted from it every now and then, and I go “Guys, I just need to go up north for a month and I’ll be done!” Just give me a month off and I’ll shut off everything for a month and then I can get it done.

LYT: Thank you so much for talking so long, it’s been great. I really hope those Christmas figures come out again, because I will buy them in a heartbeat!

TMF: Oh good! We got one! We’ll put one on the business model! (laughs)

There are still a couple of days left to enter our massive Halo 4 toy giveaway from McFarlane.

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  1. Mike says:

    What toy set does a molded old tree with a skull at the base of a tree belong to and is it still avail?

  2. MikS says:

    I hate to bitch but..
    The Rick figure for Series 1 walking dead set ADVERTISED on the box that it contained a revolver. IT DOES NOT!
    That is illegal in the UK.
    I emailed McFarlane toys and Have had no reply.
    Why’d you NOT put the right gun in the pack?
    Kind of a shitty way to treat your customers.

  3. balthazar getty says:

    Fuck Todd!!!!!!